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Friday, June 16, 2006

Ind. Decisions - More on: Bystanders can sue police over chases

The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel has an editorial today on the Supreme Court's rulings earlier this week (see ILB entries here and here) that bystanders can sue over police chases. It begins:

Police have to be able to pursue fleeing suspects; otherwise they aren’t doing their jobs, and public safety will not be served. But they are obligated to do it with care, lest they needlessly endanger those they are sworn to protect.

That’s the commonsense result of a decision Wednesday by the Indiana Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that bystanders injured in high-speed chases can sue police for damages and need show only that police were negligent. Justices said public safety officers have “a duty of driving with reasonable care” when chasing suspects or responding to crime reports.

The ruling was based on two cases. In one from Indianapolis, a driver fleeing police hit the car of Richard Garman, who has had medical bills exceeding $300,000 and whose fiancée was killed in the crash. In the other case, from Gary, it was actually the police officer in the chase who hit a bystander.

It has been difficult for Indiana police to know what their liability is, since there has been conflict between state law and court rulings. There are also contradictory state laws. One confers immunity on the law enforcement community. But another says emergency vehicles must be operated with “due regard” for people’s safety.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 16, 2006 07:12 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions